Daesh in Syria kidnap 150: Men, women, children
Daesh militants have abducted at least 150 people from Assyrian Christian villages in northeastern Syria they had raided, Syrian activists said on Tuesday.
A Syrian group representing several NGOs inside and outside the country said it had verified at least 150 people missing, including women and the elderly, who had been kidnapped by the militants.
"We have verified at least 150 people who have been adducted from sources on the ground," Bassam Ishak, president of the Syriac National Council of Syria, whose family itself is from Hasaka, told Reuters from Amman.
Earlier the British-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said 90 were abducted when the militants carried out dawn raids on rural villages inhabited by the ancient minority west of Hasaka, a city mainly held by the Kurds.
The United States condemned the attacks in Hasaka and called for the immediate and unconditional release of the civilians taken captive. The State Department said hundreds of others remain trapped in villages surrounded by Daesh fighters in violence that has displaced more than 3,000 people.
"Daesh's latest targeting of a religious minority is only further testament to its brutal and inhumane treatment of all those who disagree with its divisive goals and toxic beliefs," spokeswoman Jen Psaki said in a statement, using an acronym for Daesh.
Psaki added that Syrians are also threatened by President Bashar Al Assad's intensified bombings and air strikes in an "unrelenting campaign of terror."
Syrian Kurdish militia launched two offensives against the militants in northeast Syria on Sunday, helped by US-led air strikes and Iraqi peshmerga.
This part of Syria borders territory controlled by Daesh in Iraq, where it committed atrocities last year against the Yazidi religious minority.
Daesh did not confirm the kidnappings. Supporters posted photos online of the group's fighters in camouflage attire looking at maps and firing machine guns. The website said the photos were from Tel Tamr, a town near where the Observatory said the abductions occurred.
Many Assyrians have emigrated in the nearly four-year-long conflict in which more than 200,000 have people have been killed.
Military experts said militants were trying to open a new front to relieve pressure on Daesh after several losses since being driven from the Syrian town of Kobani near the border with Turkey.
"Daesh are losing in several areas so they want to wage an attack on a new area," said retired Jordanian general Fayez Dwiri.
Since driving Daesh from Kobani, Kurdish forces, backed by other Syrian armed groups, have pursued the group's fighters as far as their provincial stronghold of Raqqa.
A resident of Hasaka, jointly held by the Syrian government and the Kurds, said hundreds of families had arrived in recent days from surrounding Christian villages and Arab Bedouins were arriving from areas along the border.
"Families are coming to Hasaka seeking safety," said Abdul Rahman al-Numai, a textile trader said by telephone.
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